Denis Naughten accuses HSE as dementia unit set to shut

Closure of Castlerea Alzheimer’s disease care facility is ‘absolute disgrace’, says Minister

Minister for Communications Denis Naughten has accused health authorities of trying to replicate the past in Roscommon by closing another care facility in the county, this time in Castlerea. "The behaviour on this occasion is a replication of what went on in the past and it is not acceptable of any health service anywhere," he said.

In July 2011, Mr Naughten lost the Fine Gael whip when he opposed a government decision to close Roscommon County Hospital's emergency department. He has been an Independent TD since.

A public meeting attended by an estimated 300 people, including all three local TDs as well as county councillors, took place in Castlerea on Thursday night in protest at Health Service Executive plans to close the Rosalie unit at Áras Naomh Chaolain in the town for people who suffer from Alzheimer's disease or dementia. With a capacity for 35, it now has 13 residents.

In September 2016, the HSE placed an embargo on admissions to the unit despite assurances given in July 2015, when then minister of state for health Kathleen Lynch told a deputation from Roscommon including Mr Naughten there were "no plans to close it and there will be no such plans".

‘Admissions embargo’

A meeting last month attended by a delegation from Roscommon with Minister of State at the Department of Health with responsibility for Mental Health and Older People Jim Daly and chief officer for the HSE in Galway, Mayo and Roscommon Tony Canavan failed to secure any assurances about the Rosalie unit's future.

Speaking to Shannonside Radio on Friday, Mr Canavan said the HSE had "no intention" of reversing the 2016 decision to place an embargo on admissions to the Rosalie unit and that "an inevitable consequence of that, if no new people are admitted, is that eventually it would wind down".

At the meeting in Castlerea on Thursday night, Mr Naughten said “this [unit] will not be wound down by stealth, that was exactly what the man [official] said and that was endorsed by Kathleen Lynch” at the July 2015 meeting.

He continued:“It’s an absolute disgrace that we are back here again. This meeting shouldn’t be taking place. It shouldn’t have to take place. But not only that, the behaviour on this occasion is a replication of what went on in the past and it is not acceptable of any health service anywhere in the world that something like that should happen.”

Among other speakers were TDs Eugene Murphy and Michael Fitzmaurice, and Senator Maura Hopkins. It was agreed a delegation would seek a meeting with Minister for Health Simon Harris on the unit's future.